DVN Data Story 02 – Is NSW Becoming More Tolerant


I was curious to see if Australia was becoming a more tolerant society and found that the Anti-Discrimination Board NSW publish their statistics online via the NSW Open Data Portal (NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d.).

The Board administers the anti-discrimination laws and handles complaints under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) (NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d., p.1), and as such maintains records of complaints that have been lodged by individuals in NSW.

Looking at the reported rates of discrimination in NSW for the period between 2000 and 2014 it is clear to see that the trend is very clearly downward, with a reduction of around 88%. This is a great result particularly given the rise of xenophobic rhetoric that has entered our political landscape with the rise of One Nation and other minor parties (Stein 2015; Burnside 2009; Hassan 2005). However, in 2016 the United Nations special rapporteur claimed that “Australian politicians have given permission for people to act in xenophobic ways” (Davidson 2016, p.1) and as the data is not yet released for those years we cannot see if there has been a recent rise in discrimination.

Line chart from year 99-00 to 13-14. The starting amount for Homosexual and Transgender discrimination is 552 and the last figure is 63. The other line that is picked out is Race and it starts with 1745 and finishes with 230. All of the other lines for Sex, Disability, Care's Responsibility and Victimisation trend down sharply and have reduced by about 88% over the period
Discrimination Trends 2000 – 2014

The one disturbing trend is that even though discrimination against Homosexual and Transgender people has also fallen in line with the other forms of discrimination, it is over-representative of the population size. According to Smith et al. (2003), he estimates that only 2% or the population are Homosexual and yet discrimination against them accounts for 5% of the reported cases that are categorised. What the figures show is that that discrimination against people with a disability is not falling at the same rate as other forms, in fact it is now the highest proportion of categorised cases. The message is getting through about equal opportunities for women, but unfortunately not for the disabled.

Chart shows the % of complaints in relation to each other. over the period year 99-00 to 13-14. Homosexual and Transgender starts at 6% and ends at 6%. The one that has risen is Disability which started at 22% and ends at 30%. It seems to have made most of the gain from Sex which has fallen from 29% to 18%.
Discrimination Trends – Percentage Comparison 2000 – 2014

The good news is that the fight is being won, particularly on gender equality, but work still needs to be done to make it a fairer world for everybody… able-bodied or otherwise.


Burnside, J. 2009, ‘Australians are xenophobic’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/australians-are-xenophobic-20091105-hzix.html>.

Davidson, H. 2016, ‘Australia’s politicians have promoted xenophobia: UN expert’, The Guardian, 18 November, viewed 14 May 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/18/australias-immigration-policies-have-promoted-xenophobia-un-expert>.

Hassan, G. 2005, ‘Rising Tide of Xenophobia: Australia’s Shallow Multiculturalism’, Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.globalresearch.ca/rising-tide-of-xenophobia-australia-s-shallow-multiculturalism/1011>.

NSW Open Data Portal – Anti-Discrimination Board NSW n.d., viewed 14 May 2017, <https://data.nsw.gov.au/data/dataset?organization=anti-discrimination-board>.

Smith, A.M.A., Rissel, C.E., Richters, J., Grulich, A.E. & de Visser, R.O. 2003, ‘Sex in Australia: sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience among a representative sample of adults’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 138–45.

Stein, G. 2015, ‘Australia accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic ahead of regional people smuggling talks’, ABC News, viewed 14 May 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/australia-accused-of-being-xenophobic-in-migrant-crisis-response/6503844>.

Photo Credit: Jeremiah John McBride